Sailor convicted after biosecurity ramp-up in Northland

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A sailor who appeared in the Kaikohe District Court last week (17 February) has become the first person convicted for deliberately concealing biosecurity goods on a visiting yacht.

The conviction follows increased biosecurity scrutiny of arriving yachts by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) at Northland this yacht arrival season.

Sylvie Berthe Barre, 61, a retired French national, had earlier pleaded guilty to one charge of knowingly possessing unauthorised goods, and misleading an official. She was fined $3000.

She is currently staying in New Zealand on a three-month visiting visa.

“This was a deliberate attempt to conceal items that could have been harbouring animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, or pests such as Queensland fruit fly,” says Stu Rawnsley, MPI Manager North Cargo.

“Either could have a devastating effect on the New Zealand economy.”

“The conviction and fine sends a message that yachties will face harsh consequences if they don’t take our biosecurity rules seriously.”

MPI laid charges after a quarantine inspection at Opua on 22 November 2014 revealed undeclared goods. Mrs Barre had arrived in Opua with her husband, Remi Barre on their yacht, Belissima, from New Caledonia.

Opua is an official port of first arrival where visiting yachts go through biosecurity and customs checks.

As the master of the vessel, Mrs Barre declared no plant or meat products to MPI officials on her Master’s Declaration.

She said she was aware of New Zealand’s biosecurity regulations and had deliberately kept the ships stores low.

During a search of the yacht, MPI quarantine officers found, concealed in an emergency bag, one bunch of green bananas, two packets of Spanish ham, one packet of New Caledonian ham and one piece of dried venison.

Two limes were found hidden under a scarf in a drawer. Six jars of meat pate were found hidden under clothes in a cupboard.

During an interview with MPI quarantine officers, she admitted intentionally failing to declare the food because she wanted to eat it and that she had concealed it to prevent it being seized.

MPI stepped up its border controls for visiting yachts in Northland this season following Queensland fruit fly scares in Whangarei last year. The moves included:

  • Introduction of additional quarantine officers to check vessels after the initial inspection is completed.
  • Trialling the use of detector dogs to assist with clearances.
  • Taking part in naval and air force surveillance patrols over the summer.

During the season, MPI inspected 381 yachts at Marsden Cove and Opua (Northland’s two ports of first arrival).

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